Because container import volume to the U.S. dropped very significantly, Trans-Pacific carriers are trying desperately to avert huge COVID-19 related losses by continuing their cancellation of sailings. Doing so collectively as members of a carrier alliances has been instrumental for rates to remain stable for the remaining available vessel space.
So far, to the carriers’ credit, rate levels in 2020-2021 contracts have increased over last year’s rates only marginally. However, escalating cancellations of sailings comes at a steep price to importers in the form of disappearing service reliability, to wit: when you book your containers for a specific sailing and/or arrival time your booking may get rejected or rolled over to a later sailing, or your container(s) get off-loaded at a port along the way and re-loaded a week or so later onto a vessel that has space available. In other words, reliable sailing schedules on which you can base the arrival of containers and the availability of your merchandise are “suspended” for at least the near future.
How can importers deal with voided sailings?
There are a few options available to importers: Some carriers offer either special handling, or “guaranteed”, but also limited vessel space, or fast services – at sizeable premiums. Importers should also prepare to ship with several carriers, and with carriers that belong to different alliances. A shippers association such as the American Import Shippers Association, which maintains service contract with multiple carriers, or a reliable Forwarding organization, would most likely be able to assist you getting through these difficult times.